Friday, June 17, 2011

Polyamory: The Ethical Problems of Monogamy

I have always had ethical problems with closed relationships and monogamy. I regard love as great and sacred, and for anything to contradict that seems unethical to me. This is because our capacity for love is the source of ethics and morality, and to label love as wrong and immoral is such a contradiction! I was always amazed by the common belief that monogamy somehow is an ideal of love. This belief always seemed problematic, and in reality I believe that monogamy is anti-love and anti-ethical rather than an ideal.

The question that is crucial here is: How can you deny love in the name of love?! How can you state that love is the reason that love is wrong?!

I have found a very interesting post about the ethical dilemma of monogamy that states my view on the topic in a quite eloquent manner. The following is an excerpt from that post:

For most poly people out there, there's really nothing wrong with monogamy. Both mono and poly are valid relationship models, and everyone chooses the one which best fits them. I really wish I could wholeheartedly agree with this... however, I must admit that monogamy clashes with my ethics. And here's why:

It makes a person feel guilty about having a feeling that I consider to be one of the most important feelings of all. Our ability to connect with other people, to admire other people for their greatness, to be attracted to what we value (spiritually and physically), the ability to love – is probably our most vital characteristic in this life. Monogamy takes a somewhat controversial stance towards it – this property is considered wonderful in a person if he is single, but once he already has one romantic relationship, this very same property is labeled as extremely immoral and wrong. Well, newsflash, everyone: the ability to fall in love does not miraculously disappear when one finds a partner! OK, so maybe for some people it does. Maybe. For most of us, it does not; and polyamory finds this wonderful. In monogamy, however, it is usually considered very wrong to even be attracted to someone else – even if you never act upon these feelings. So, basically, if you're in a monogamous relationship, and there's this other person that you realize is absolutely awesome, then you should feel somewhat guilty. You should reject this realization.

And this is what ticks me off. For me, it's all very simple, really: Love is great. Sex is great. If a doctrine states that love and sex between two consenting adults is immoral, then that doctrine is wrong.

source: What's Wrong with Monogamy


Anonymous said...

Interesting comments. I write about the underlying reasons for my own move into Polyamory here:

A quote:"The notion of love as connection is misunderstood. Love with a capital L, is of course a connection of sorts, but instead of the traditional notion of connection, of hearts intertwined, Love is instead a telephone wire, a cry in the dark that has been answered; but it is still dark."

Also here:

Jessica said...

Interest thoughts, but what about those people who do not follow monogamy as doctrine, but who simply are inclined to pair bond. Who aren't denying love, because they don't find themselves drawn romantically to more then one person?

Devil's Mind said...

I think there are some problem with this "pair bond" mentality. Let make a few points:

1- Being in love or in a relationship with one person does not necessarily mean you are monogamous. Consider that there are monogamous people who are single. This is simply a state of being, they are single, but they don't "believe in" being single, it just is how things are at the moment.

Same applies to being single, or in love with just one person. It can happen, but doesn't mean that you believe in monogamy.

2- The problem of monogamy is that it promotes the idea that we love people just so that we are not single. In other words, a person is looking for love for no reason other than not being single. And quite honestly, this way of thinking is popular, and also IMO dangerous.

For me, if I love a person, it's because I think that he or she is a good person, and possesses qualities that I admire and value.

Love in my opinion is not limited or conditioned by singledom or pair bonding. Which brings me to the third point.

3- When you love a person, a good question to ponder is: Would I still love this person had I not been single?!

For me, the answer is almost always yes. If I love a person, being single or not is not a determining factor in that love.

And if someone asks themselves that question and the answer is "no", I think that they need to realize how problematic that answer is. Because in this case one has to wonder if their motivation for love is fear of loneliness. And, in my opinion, fear of loneliness is not a good basis for love or a loving relationship.

And this is something that can be observed in monogamous relationships quite often. Many monogamous folk stay in relationships that don't work well, just because they fear being single. The outcome is obvious tension and constant power struggles within the relationship.

Devil's Mind said...

4- Another interesting question to ponder is serial monogamy. It's actually very similar point to the previous one.

If you had a boyfriend or girlfriend and you loved them. Later on each one of you go their separate ways. Then you meet another person fall in love and become boyfriend/girlfriend. Three interesting questions arise:

A- If you met your current lover at a time that your previous lover was still in your life, would this have prevented you from loving this person? If the answer is "yes", we go again to the problem of whether or not your love has any intrinsic value, or simply just a way of escaping singledom.

B- What if the timelines was reversed to that of question "A". If you were in a relationship with you current lover, and then met your previous lover; Would you still love that previous boyfriend/girlfriend?

C- Some people believe that love is eternal. [As a matter of fact, I am one of the people who believe that at least sometimes love is eternal.]

So if you loved your previous boyfriend/girlfriend, and that love was eternal. Then you met your current lover and fell in love. Wouldn't this mean that you love more than one person? [Even if you are technically in just one relationship]

I consider the scenario of question "C" to be a variation of polyamory. So, I think that some people who practice serial monogamy are actually polyamorists... I find it unlikely to live a life when each time you love a new person, all your previous lovers simply disappear from your heart, and they become just another stranger!!

Which brings me to my last point:

5- If someone practices serial monogamy, could they honestly say that they have absolutely no emotional attachment to any of their previous partners?

If such a person answered with "yes", would you really want to be in a relationship with them? Do you think it is healthy that someone just forgets about you as soon as they enter a new relationship?

In conclusion, I think that there is no such thing as pure monogamy in practice. And practicing monogamy, even without considering it a doctrine is problematic, and is emotionally immature.

Oleksandra P said...

Devil's Mind,
My name is Oleksandra Pravednyk. I am a senior at high school and making a presentation about polyamory. I read your post and it really opened up alot of interesting topics for me for my presentation. However, I still need some examples for my presentations, and I wondering if you could either write to me about your personal experiences or maybe direct me to finding some. I am aware that this may make you feel uncomfortable because you don't even know me but, I will keep all information anonymous. If you aren't interested it is fine. But, if you are, please e-mail me ASAP at